Chapter 31 of the Book of Proverbs in the Hebrew Bible is presented as advice which Lemuel's mother gave to him, about how a virtuous king should reign, and also detailing the attributes of a virtuous wife or ideal woman. The second section of text of this chapter directs women to be industrious and fear the Lord. The woman is the topic of numerous Bible studies and Christian women's ministries.
The 10th to 31st verses of the chapter are called Eisheth Ḥayil (אשת חיל). It is a praise of the good wife, a definition of a perfect wife or "ideal woman" in Judaism. This "Woman of Worth" has been described as the personification of wisdom, the ideal wife of an ancient patriarchal imagination, or in some sense as a description of a particular class of Women in Israel, Persia, Syria-Palestine or in Hellenistic society - or on all those levels. It is one of the thirteen alphabetical acrostic poems in the Bible. Traditionally, the Eisheth Ḥayil was viewed as written by King Solomon and many prominent theologians continue to hold this belief. However there is a more recent branch of critical scholarship which suggests it was added to Proverbs later. This chapter is recited on Friday night, before Shabbat dinner in some Jewish homes. Some see this as a praise directed from the husband to his wife. It has also been suggested that the son in Proverbs 31 is King Solomon, receiving advice from Bathsheba, herself the wife of King David.
The word חיל (Ḥayil) appears in verses 10 and 29 of the passage, thought as the summary of the good woman's character. Traditionally it has been translated "virtuous" or "noble." Some scholars have suggested that it rather means "forceful," "mighty," or "valiant" because the use of the word in the Tanakh is almost exclusively used regarding warfare.
- Audio Eshet Hayil: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bM8FtKHsf7g
- Shema Yisrael Torah Network - The Eishes Chayil
- Eishes Chayil - Define
- Sefer HaToldos Admur Maharash-Chapter 7
- The two wise women of Proverbs, chapter 31, from the Jewish Bible Quarterly Review